Mary Elizabeth Williams

How to embrace doing nothing -- especially if you're working from home

The world has changed exponentially since Celeste Headlee released her latest book "Do Nothing: How to Break Away From Overworking, Overdoing, and Under Living" just earlier this month. Already, the notion of eating lunch in your cubicle or  answering work emails from home seem like the habits of another era. Yet her message — of creating boundaries, of stepping away from the glowing screen now and then, of admitting that multitasking makes us less productive rather than more — seems more important now than ever. Our brains are already on high alert for the foreseeable future. It feels imperative to our mental and physical health to slow down.

Headlee, the co-host of "Retro Report" on PBS and author of the bestselling "We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter," joined us recently in our Salon studio to talk about why we aren't really working any more than our parents did, and why working from home now shouldn't mean we're working 24/7. Watch the chat with Headlee here or read the transcript below:

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How our failing healthcare system gave us Gwyneth Paltrow's crackpot Goop

"What the f**k are you doing to people?" the slyly grinning Gwyneth Paltrow asks in the trailer for her new Netflix series, "The Goop Lab." I've been asking myself the same about her for years now. I finally think I get it, though. Goop is a monster of our own making.

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Three cheers for the 'Megxit'!

Sure, you love your family, but have you ever felt like you just … need some space? Like an ocean or two? Have you ever really burned out on playing the Roman to a sibling's Kendall? Maybe then you've been feeling a degree of empathy for what that good-looking couple known as the Sussexes initiated this week — a royal mini retreat that's already been dubbed "Megxit."

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Remembering Elizabeth Wurtzel: 'Prozac Nation' changed how we talk about and treat depression

A bottle of Prozac sits on my kitchen counter. It's the property of one member of my household, and a friendly companion to my own bottle of Wellbutrin that resides beside it. Those two containers are part of the day-to-day fabric of our lives and routines here, like our toothbrushes and sticks of deodorant. We simultaneously take them for granted and wouldn't dream of letting them run out. They help keep us fit for society and our own company as well. Sometimes, I look at those bottles and think of every bit of relief and shame and trepidation I felt when our doctors first suggested those pills might ease our  suffering, and I remember the complicated woman who helped create the modern face of depression and anxiety.

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'Cats' is a mesmerizing laser pointer for your brain

Was there ever a moment when “Cats,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatrical smash musical, was not considered high camp? Was it ever not an offhand shorthand for tourists and karaoke? I ask because the only answer I can come up with to the question of whether the movie musical of “Cats” is any good is another question. Is “Cats” supposed to be good?

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My God, I miss smoking

There is nothing glamorous about a piece of trash on a dirty sidewalk. The red cardboard box had been discarded with such casual disregard, its owner hadn’t even cared that there was a garbage can a foot away. It lay there on the sidewalk, surrounded by dead leaves and a single candy wrapper. Nevertheless, all I could think when I saw it was, “My God, I miss smoking.”

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Director Michael Lehmann explains why Ivanka and Kellyanne are today's 'good Heathers'

Ithink it just comes down to this: Who doesn’t want to kill their friends sometimes? All I know is that on a brisk spring evening in 1989, my pal Carolyn and I went to the movies. We based our choice that night entirely on the fact that this movie starred the girl from “Beetlejuice,” and some guy who seemed be doing an inexplicable Jack Nicholson imitation. We have spent the subsequent 30 years of our lives quoting "Heathers" every chance we can get.

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The job of being a Christian isn’t just being kind and forgiving. It’s making trouble for those who abuse their power

I don’t really know, if Jesus walked among today, his bucket list would include “Boo the president of the United States at a ball game” or “Kick Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of his restaurant” or “Take a pass on shaking Mitch McConnell’s hand.” But there’s definitely enough room in my Christian heart to believe it would be a totally viable option.

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The uneasy farce of 'Jojo Rabbit': Joking about Nazis is trickier than ever

“It’s definitely not a good time to be a Nazi,” a baby-faced Hitler Youth drily observes in director Taika Waititi’s ambitious, polarizing coming-of-age epic “Jojo Rabbit.” Whether you find a line like that entertaining or not will likely tell you how you’ll regard the other hour and 47 minutes that surround it. Me? I laughed.

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Is the Statue of Liberty the world's largest drag queen?

It's a classic American story. It begins with a dream, of course, a dream that that takes root in a faraway land and takes years to manifest, years of setbacks and economic hardship. But eventually, it becomes one of a woman who makes her way to the United States, where she becomes a larger-than-life icon. So if you think for one hot second that the story of the Statue of Liberty wouldn't be somehow intertwined with drag queens and Diane von Furstenberg, you don't know your history.

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Adult orthodontia is exploding. Could fixing my teeth fix my life?

I spent a large part of my childhood in a state of wild jealousy of my cousin Amy.  Amy was delicate, blonde, and took horseback riding lessons and ballet class. I was husky, dark haired, and watched TV. Amy wore designer jeans. I wore the kind from JCPenny with the elastic waist.  And when Amy was 12, her parents her gave her the one thing I  wanted most as a kid — a mouth full of metal and rubber bands. It’s taken me decades, but I’m finally catching up. I may never have gotten that Barbie Dream House, but as God as my witness, I will someday soon have my own set of straight, pearly teeth.

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Parenting a teen is as intense as a baby, but very different. Why don't we talk about it more?

There's no book out there called "What to Expect in the Eighteenth Year." During pregnancy and early parenthood, I never lacked for guidelines on how best raise my children. After a certain point, though, the advice pickings started to get slim, just as the challenges of my kids' teen years were kicking in hard.

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Kathy Griffin still gets death threats: 'People want to kill me on stage'

She's been pushing buttons for three decades now as a comic, a reality star, an actress. But with one incendiary photograph, she became something else: an alleged credible threat in the eyes of the FBI and a vocal authority on the First Amendment rights for all of us. The owner of the second most famous blue dress in presidential politics has a hell of a story, and she's turning into a new documentary performance film, "A Hell of a Story." It's premiering for a one night only special Fathom Event on July 31. 

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Here's the remarkable way Meghan McCain changed The View — and The View changed political theater

It’s the show that changed daytime television, and after 22 years, “The View” is still the one that has everybody talking. But beyond gossipy headlines about backstage battles and on-air arguments, there’s a deeper story about how a diverse and unlikely group of women redefined how we talk about news and politics. “It’s a culturally important show,” says award-winning journalist Ramin Setoodeh. He joined us recently to talk about his buzzed about literary debut — “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View.'”

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The real scam of elite college admissions game goes way beyond Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin

Corruption in higher education? Why, it's as shocking as gambling in Casablanca. Yet even for the most jaded among us, there is exceptional poetry this week in the tale of rich parents going to truly idiotic lengths to secure their offspring something once quaintly referred to as "a good education."

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Here's how one actress carved out a niche for women in Hollywood long before the #MeToo movement

Not that Penny Marshall would have been offended if the very first thing she was remembered for was a television character whose motto was the enigmatic "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!", but she was so much more than Laverne DeFazio. As an actor, a director and a producer, Marshall, who died on December 17 at the age of 75, helped create for women in Hollywood the very model of a modern multi-hyphenate.

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Fake News and the 'Other White Meat': How Pork Became Poultry -- and Why It Matters

Back in the '90s, I spent an inordinate amount of time on two wildly unproductive pursuits: exploring the brave new world of the Internet, and arguing with people about the nature of pig meat. The more time that passes, the more I see how closely those two obsessions were related. Because whenever I hear someone parroting the phrase "fake news," a little part of me always hears "other white meat."

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Mr. Rogers Was a Total Revolutionary - Here's Why

The woman next to me in the movie theater is crying. Not the kind of delicate, dab your tears away and sniffle crying like I did at "Blockers." No, this woman is in full best friend's funeral heaving mode. We are watching a man tie his sneakers.

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Has the Academy Learned a Thing From #MeToo and #TimesUp?

A year ago, the world watched uncomfortably as Brie Larson handed Hollywood's highly accolade to Casey Affleck, a man accused of sexually harassing behavior and named in two lawsuits. Oscar has always danced happily with accused abusers, including Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein. But after the explosive momentum of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements over recent months, this year promised to be different. And then the exact same thing happened again. Do you know exactly what newly minted victors Kobe Bryant and Gary Oldman have been accused of? Because it's horrifying. 

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Are the Academy Awards Ready for #MeToo?

The most conspicuous, speculated-over person at Sunday's Academy Awards will likely be the person who's never been nominated for an Oscar. And Ryan Seacrest is just the start of it.

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Parkland Put a New Generation in the Spotlight, and They're Ready for It

They don't even have a real name yet — there's no way "Gen Z" or "iGeneration" are going to stick. But the young men and women born after 2000 have wasted zero time this year asserting that the next generation has arrived. They've basked in the glory of Olympic success, with Red Gerard and Chloe Kim becoming the first winter gold medalists born in the new century. And in the wake of the February 14 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, they've demonstrated they're a formidable political force. The teenagers have arrived. Thank God.

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I’m Done with Competitive Parenting

You were right all along, sanctimommies. I didn't breastfeed long enough, didn't Ferberize soon enough. I parked the kids in front of the TV instead of playing enriching imagination games. I caved when they wanted to quit the free tennis program at our local park. And now that both of my daughters are teenagers and one is preparing to graduate high school, I fold. They are not geniuses. They are not going to Stanford or to Wimbledon. Never gonna be president now. So can we stop competing with each other?

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The Two Little Words That Could Transform Our Understanding of Sexual Harassment and Assault

They were just two small words, but in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, they became a deluge. And uttered in unison, they broke the illusion that our social media feeds so often adeptly create for us. They acknowledged that we are not OK here.

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Have You Ever Unfriended Your Right-Wing Facebook Friends Out of Anger and Frustration?

The title of Celeste Headlee's new book is "We Need to Talk," but really, it's just as much a plea for listening.

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Duke Psychiatrist: America Is Having a Nervous Breakdown

Last winter, the former chair of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) Task Force and the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine wrote a widely circulated letter to The New York Times affirming that as the man who "wrote the criteria" that define narcissistic personality disorder, Trump doesn't seem to be suffering from it. Instead, as he suggests in his new book, 45 is just "a bad person." Which is worse.

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I’m an Orphan, Even Though My Mother’s Still Alive

It’s generally accepted that Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the undisputed king and queen of holidays designed to make at least half of us feel pretty bad about our lives. But for my money, it’s the one-two punch of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day that ought to come with a trigger warning.

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'Jesus Didn't Live in a Gated Community'

This isn’t the first time in history that people who call themselves Christians have been doing awful things. It isn’t the first time many of us who still seek meaning in our faith find ourselves questioning what our belief system truly stands for in the real world. Yet it feels a particularly acute moment nonetheless, one in which the need to speak out against hypocrisy and injustice is stronger than it has been in recent memory, and when the temptation to bail on belief seems on many days awfully appealing.

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20 Women Who Made a Bad Year a Whole Lot Better

As the think pieces explaining every single way this year has been terrible continue to pile up, it’s impossible not to note that 2016 has been an extra special terrible year for women. Reproductive rights have been challenged. Sexual assailants have given sympathetic narratives in the media and slaps on the wrist in court. And a man who bragged about grabbing women by the p___y was rewarded with the nation’s highest office.

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New Year's Resolution for the Internet: Spare Us All Your Outrage Over Outrage

My resolutions for 2017 are pretty straightforward. I want to listen more. I want to live more in a state of action than reaction. I definitely want to limit my tunneling into Twitter rabbit holes of outrage. And based on how this week’s been going, I’m not going to wait till January 1 to get started.

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Donald Trump’s Misogyny Doesn’t Sleep: Tweeting Sexist Smears at 3am Is Super Unpresidential

If Donald Trump is really as rich as he claims to be, why hasn’t his team hired a few people to keep an eye on him 24/7 and wrestle his phone away from him when he’s about to go on a tweet rant? It seems like it’d be a good investment. Because his middle-of-the-night frothing about sex tapes does not make him look super presidential.

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Cheatsplaining: Infidelity Expert Rudy Giuliani Is Lecturing Hillary Clinton on Marriage Now?

It cannot be possible that these guys, even for a hot second, actually believe their own schtick, could it? There’s no way that Rudolph Giuliani, a former mayor who sets the bar for screaming paranoia in a metropolis that teems with it, can seriously think that he’s one to lecture Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the subjects of intelligence or feminism, right? Then again, the man really does fit beautifully into his party’s mass delusion.

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